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Netvibes is the future

Well, maybe not the future. But it is impressive. The more AJAX-driven Web 2.0 techologies (click on those if I’m making no sense) I see the more I want our academic web services to use them — thinking CMS/moodle here. Netvibes is just a fluid portal that I’d love to have for a campus portal. I’m still just amazed at how in a web browser I click and edit and move objects around — just like a desktop application. There have been some AJAX-based modules developed for moodle.

Innovate Dec/Jan issue is out!

It’s always a good day when the latest Innovate comes out. I immediately jumped to Steven Downes’ “Places To Go” column — not only because he’s talking about moodle, but because his columns have always been interesting. I honestly don’t know when he has time to eat and sleep. Have you looked at his web site? I could spend days there. I’m halfway through “Taking a Journey with Today’s Digital Kids: An Interview with Deneen Frazier Bowen” which is describing her keynote that I’m going to have see online. It illustrates the divide between the typical educator and the “digital natives.” I was able to watch the first 5 minutes of the keynote before the feed cut out. But it looked like a memorable keynote! This issue does seem rather K-12 focused but still of interest to others.

Podcasts and exits

I should mention that I did take something away from Scott McNealy’s keynote — the cost of exit. He made the point that when choosing a technology the cost of exit is often not considered. We should all know that any platform — OS, CMS, ERP, etc — will not be around forever and at some point we will “exit” from it. We often as a profession don’t factor that cost into our choices. I think that actually factored into our CMS choice of moodle, though we didn’t exactly think of it that way. With a move from Bb 5.5.1 to 6.x we knew there would be faculty training involved. We surmised it would be equivalent to changing CMSes. Most of our faculty were on the left side of our “Hybrid Environment” spectrum so many of the skills they’ve developed with Bb were transferable to another CMS. In addition we created a means for them to place content in their personal network folders and that content would be displayed within their courses in the CMS. We knew a few years ago that a CMS change would be coming so we wanted to have faculty rely less on the CMS as a content management system, because it does that poorly. The faculty that were using our content system had a transparent move to moodle — their content would be available in the moodle course automatically. Sure, it is displayed in a new window that requires a click by the student, but the faculty member didn’t have to do anything different to have the content displayed there. I’ve rambled enough about this. Basically I think my colleagues in IT are a smart bunch and I’m glad to be working with them.

Ok, podcasts. I just had to say again how great the podcasts are from the conference. I just got done listening to Rebecca Alm from MCAD talk about distance learning, studio learning and online critiques. I wish I had seen her session in 2004! Our department has talked to her department (all 2 of them!) over the past few years so it was great to see (hear) her interviewed. I think it’s important for Educause to highlight the kinds of things being done by small departments at small institutions. Much innovation can spring forth when resources are constrained.

Educause 2005

I’m off to Educause 2005 next week. I hope to connect with some other moodlers there. I’ll be wearing my moodle button so say “hi” if you see me! I’ll also be convening the best moodle session there – “Closer to the Dream: Letting Pedagogy Transform Learning Management Systems” — so be sure to attend!

moodle function update

I’ve rewritten my contact_inactive_students_log function in the Augsburg moodle library. This is a function that will email instructors a message with a list of students who have not been active in X days (including ones who have never logged into the course). In addition

  • You can specify a list of usernames of other people to receive the message — such as program directors or advising staff.
  • Set an optional debug boolean variable so that the admin account gets emailed instead of the instructors while you test it out.

This function is best called by command-line php in a nightly cron job. The included active.php file shows how to call the function.

I’ve also posted a more standard group-aware version of Quickmail. My other version was hacked up a bit. This one should be cleaner.

In addition I’ve added a hack to make login as a little more restrictive.

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